I distinctly remember the first time someone looked up to me for being a polygamist.
We had been invited by some polygamous friends to a Thanksgiving dinner that was attended by an eclectic group of fundamental Mormons (some were members of a sect of Mormonism, but many were independent). I knew almost no one there. (This was the first time I met Benjamin Shaffer, the attorney who purchased Drew Briney’s law firm when the Brineys moved away from Utah.) I was introduced to a married couple and I asked them if they were polygamists. The wife said, “No, not yet. I wish. Are you guys polygamists?” When I answered in the affirmative, she said with sincerity, “Oh, that’s so great. I hope I can be a plural wife someday.” (She’s a plural wife now and one of the best I know. As one example of how she’s so supportive: She has a huge picture of her husband and sisterwife on their wedding day on her living room wall.)
That was a very nice moment for me. Up to that point, people expressed many different feelings about my marital status, ranging from outright rejection to disgust to fascination to neutrality to supportive, but I had never met anyone who was actually jealous of me for being a polygamist.
I didn’t consider myself a fundamental Mormon, but after that Thanksgiving dinner I started to feel more and more comfortable hanging around Mormon fundamentalists because of their general belief that polygamy is acceptable, desirable, even preferred.
I still spend plenty of time with people who merely tolerate my polygamy. When I’m around those people, I will either hide my polygamy or at the very least I feel an overarching sense of embarrassment/shame about it, like the girl who keeps brushing her bangs in front of the zit on her forehead.
However, those feelings of shame or embarrassment are left over from when I cared what those people thought. I’m not ashamed to be a polygamist. I’m actually quite proud of my plural family and in particular of my husband. I’m proud of my husband for keeping two emotional women happy most of the time. I’m proud of him for financially supporting a large family. I’m proud of him for bearing the weight of a marred reputation caused by society’s feelings about plural marriage. I’m proud of him for always putting his family first and for being the most selfless person I have the privilege of knowing. I’m proud of him that God trusts him with such a great responsibility. I’m proud of him for keeping peace (and restoring it when it’s lost) between all the members of our family. I’m proud of him for his wisdom in difficult decisions. I’m proud of him for functioning on 2 hours of sleep when one of his wives needs to talk with him all night. I’m proud of him for never putting himself first but for always always serving God and his family and others around him. I’m proud of him for being stable when one or both of his wives are being crazy. I’m proud of Joshua for so many reasons. I think of him as a king and I feel it an honor to be married to him. I’m proud to be one of his queens.
The feeling of pride I have over our functional, beautiful plural family has grown and expanded almost imperceptibly until an event that happened yesterday. We went to a party for Joshua’s aunts, uncles, and cousins. This party is held annually, but it was our first time attending since becoming polygamists. We used to go every year (and to other events with these people as well), and Joshua and I have been married for 17 years, so I’ve known these people for a good long time.
The family is a pretty big group, I would say about 85 people, and almost all of them are active LDS. This is the kind of group I have historically felt awkward to be around. None of them are excited that we’re polygamists, and many of them openly disapprove (even writing letters and making phone calls to make sure we know how they feel).
And yet, yesterday when we walked into the party, I held my head high. I felt like a queen. I look at Joshua as a king and Melissa as a queen, and yesterday I felt no shame or embarrassment whatsoever. I greeted everyone with a confident hug and just acted like my old pre-polygamy self. If anyone felt awkward, it wasn’t me. If anyone wished I wasn’t there, it wasn’t me. I didn’t feel like I was inferior to any of the monogamists in the room. I didn’t feel like I had anything to apologize for. I didn’t feel like I had a zit on my forehead I was trying to hide. I just felt proud of my plural family and proud of my kingly husband. It was a wonderful experience and certainly made me feel as tho I have progressed in my journey as a plural wife.
I watch every episode of Seeking Sister Wife, but I still haven’t gotten around to watching Sister Wives. My friend texted me this evening and told me she saw us on the Sister Wives episode that showed Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding, so I figured I should write about it. One of these days I’ll probably sit down and watch the episode.
The invitation had a cool wax seal with the letter “T” on it (for Thompson). I was interested to see that the bride’s name was “Aspyn Kristine Brown.” I wonder what the story is behind the middle name. I suppose her mom, Christine, wanted to name her daughter after herself, but without spelling it the same?
I was surprised to realize the reception was on Father’s Day; that seems like such a strange day for a wedding. But later I was told that the venue they wanted to rent for the reception was booked solid except for Father’s Day, so they went with it.
My sister got married on her birthday. That seems even stranger than getting married on Father’s Day. But it’s a bummer for my sister now that she’s divorced. C’est la vie.
Interestingly enough, a polygamous husband in one of the reality TV shows was married to one of his wives on her birthday, and they are also now divorced. You’re not going to believe this, but not only were both my sister and my friend married on their birthday, but they also have their birthdays on the same day! Weird! Don’t get married on your birthday, especially if your birthday is June 19th!
We know the Browns as well as Mitch. We also know all of Mitch’s siblings, including Vanessa Alldredge from Seeking Sister Wife (she actually stayed at our house when they were in town for the wedding). Half of Mitch’s siblings are polygamists and half are not. He’s the tie-breaker to tip the scale towards monogamy.
We have attended other events that were being filmed for reality TV. One of them was an event for the Briney family from the first season of Seeking Sister Wife. The event was a Meet ‘n’ Greet for Lenny, the newborn baby of Drew Briney’s third wife Angela. We were required to meet TLC employees in a parking lot a mile away from the Brineys’ house, sign a contract, and get our photos taken, before being allowed in the car that would shuttle us to the actual site. I don’t remember what the paperwork said, altho I did take a picture of it so I could go back and reread it if I ever wanted to. I remember it was several pages and after I signed it I had to hold it in front of my body while the network took a photo of me, mug shot style. (The Meet ‘n’ Greet never aired, presumably because the Briney family provided enough other drama that the footage wasn’t needed. Angela told me she was disappointed that TLC focused so much on the bad stuff instead of showing one of the beautiful themes available to them: the miracle of Lenny’s conception; the footage of his birth; the visit of his namesake, Angela’s father; and his Meet ‘n’ Greet.)
One of the things I remember from Lenny’s Meet ‘n’ Greet was that we arrived, put our gifts in the designated spot, talked to people, went inside the house, used the bathroom, chatted with Drew’s mom, asked if any help was needed with the food, etc., all before any filming took place. Then, when the film crew was finally ready, and more than an hour after the event was scheduled to begin, all the guests had to “leave” the party and then enter again, on camera this time, as if we had just arrived. That part felt fake, for sure. But most of the event felt normal, besides being surrounded by cameras, microphones, and film crew. Joshua was asked to give the opening prayer. We sat at the table with Jeff Alldredge’s daughter. If I remember right, at that point TLC wasn’t open about the Alldredges knowing the Brineys, it was hush-hush, and Jeff’s daughter wasn’t allowed to show her face in the Alldredge scenes because she had been filmed in the Briney parts of the show. In fact, the Alldredges weren’t even allowed to attend the Meet ‘n’ Greet, despite their being very close to Angela Briney. (As an example of how good of friends they are, I’ll tell you, I went to visit Angela when Lenny was less than a week old. As I pulled up to the house Angela shared with April Briney, the Alldredges came out and walked to their truck. I asked them, “Oh, did you come to meet the new baby?” and they answered that this wasn’t their first visit, that they’d already been to visit Angela several times since Lenny was born.) After Seeking Sister Wife aired for the first time, of course it came out that the Brineys and Alldredges know each other, and the control TLC tried to have over the families seemed extra ridiculous.
Anyway, back to the wedding reception. I was expecting the same level of red tape at Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception that we had to go thru at the Lenny Briney’s Meet ‘n’ Greet, but I was disappointed. I actually had intended to take pictures of the contract and compare it to the earlier one. The invitation to the Briney event warned us that it was going to be filmed for reality TV; the invitation to the Brown event did the same. But when we showed up to the wedding reception, we weren’t asked to sign any contracts, and I don’t remember seeing any signs posted, except for this small sign I noticed by the entrance as we were leaving:
When we arrived at the wedding reception, we paid $6 for the required valet parking and walked around the outside of the building. There’s a vineyard, so since we’re interested in wine (we make our own sacramental wine, and we even teach wine-making classes) we took our time looking at the grape vines.
Actually, while I’m on the subject of wine-making, I will take another detour to the Brineys and Alldredges. We like to take credit for Angela marrying Drew Briney because of the events surrounding how they met. We were teaching a wine class at the Alldredges’ house and the Brineys and Angela were also in attendance, and that was how they met. They were married soon afterwards. I didn’t know they had gotten married because it happened so quickly. (A few months later they had a wedding reception we attended.) My close friend April Briney kept texting me, asking if she could come visit me. I repeatedly turned her down because I was so morning sick that I couldn’t take any visitors. At some point I ran into the Alldredges and asked about Angela. They told me she had news and I should ask her myself, so I texted Angela, and that’s how I found out she had married Drew. I feel terrible because April had wanted to tell me herself but I never gave her the opportunity. I think in Angela’s Year of Polygamy podcast interview, she said she met Drew “at a fireside.” Well, that “fireside” was our wine-making class. 😊
And while I’m on the subject of husbands meeting future wives, I will mention that Jeff Alldredge met Vanessa at an event at Kody Brown’s house in Utah, which is now my house. Oh, those polygamists all seem to be connected somehow, don’t they?
Okay. Back to Mitch and Aspyn’s party. It’s always fun to go to a party where the polygamists outnumber the monogamists. I don’t know if the wedding reception fit that description, but there were a lot of polygamists at Aspyn and Mitch’s wedding reception. We visited with friends and had refreshments.
Once it was time to sit down for the program (dancing, cake-cutting, etc.), we sat pretty close to the front. I suppose that’s why my friend was able to see us on the screen. It’s probably the kind of thing where you don’t really notice anyone in the background unless you’re specifically looking for them.
I gotta say, the most disappointing thing of the night was that there wasn’t an open bar. I figured since TLC was filming it, they were also paying for the wedding, and since it was at an expensive venue, the budget was generous. Therefore, I optimistically hoped for an open bar. Alas, there was a bar, but it was not open. The three of us each had a single glass of wine (a wedding is a sacrament, after all) and the bill was $26.
However, what was lacking in the drinks category was made up for in the dessert category. My sisterwife Melissa is known for her baking, and she said the cake served at Mitch and Aspyn’s wedding reception was the best cake she’s ever eaten. Was there an earlier Sister Wives episode that showed a cake-tasting? Whoever picked this one is the winner. They had other refreshments besides the cake. I’m not really into desserts so I couldn’t tell you, but both my baker-in-the-making daughter and my sisterwife Melissa could probably tell you lots of details if you cared to ask them. They at least had s’mores, as shown in the photo below.
If you watch the episode closely I’m sure you’ll be able to see lots of familiar faces from Seeking Sister Wife. Among the photos I took are some blurry photos of Jeff and Vanessa Alldredge, and here’s a not-quite-as-blurry photo I took of their son making s’mores over a candle:
Here are some of the photos I took from my front-row seat. I suppose these are nothing new to those of you who have actually seen the episode.
I was told that Mitch’s mom (shown in the photo above) made all the beautiful hats for the wedding.
The morning after the wedding reception we left to go on our annual weeklong backpacking trip. Good times.
Mitch is a great guy and Aspyn is a fantastic match for him. I’m so glad they found each other and I think they make a beautiful couple.